Male Athlete of the Week: Burke comes up big for Skyline in playoffs

Marcus Burke Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Marcus Burke didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, so last week’s playoff game was his first where he saw a lot of time on the field. The Skyline senior made sure it was one to remember.

Burke was involved in all three fumbles by Culpeper, had two interceptions. Then he saved the biggest play for last with a game-winning touchdown catch with three seconds left.

“It’s pretty nice to be able to go out there and compete the way I did,” Burke said. “I have a lot to thank my teammates for. It wasn’t just me. They made people bounce, so I get to make some tackles, cause a couple fumbles and get a couple picks.”

Burke, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for the week of Nov. 9-15, was all over the place on defense against the Blue Devils. He recovered a fumble on Culpeper’s first drive of the game. He forced two more fumbles during the game.

“The running back — it wasn’t that he wasn’t taking care of the ball,” Burke said of the fumbles. “It was just we were able to hold him up for a second, and we were able to start ripping at the ball.”

Culpeper quarterback Aaron Crim came into the game having thrown for over 2,000 yards, but Burke and his teammates held him to only two completions in the game.

Burke’s first interception of the game came in the third quarter with Culpeper at the Skyline 9-yard line.

His second interception came after Crim had completed his second pass of the game — a 48-yard strike to Tristen Mullen — to move the ball to the Skyline 26-yard line with a little over six minutes left in the game. Burke tipped the pass, but couldn’t knock it down, and said he felt like he needed to make up for it. He did on the next play intercepting a pass in the end zone for the second time in the game.

“I knew (wide receiver Eli Marks) was their guy,” Burke said. “He did a little double move right there real quick, and then he went up for it. I saw him trip a little bit, but I’m glad I came down with it.”

As good as Burke was on defense, his play on offense was the biggest one of the game. Trailing 21-17 in the final minute, the hawks drove the ball down the field to the Culpeper 1-yard line. With 3.7 seconds left, Burke dove for a ball while being tackled by a Culpeper defender and caught the game-winning score.

“It was just a little quick out,” Burke said. “It looked like the corner must have slept on it a little bit, and he gambled a little late. As I was going for the ball I was getting hit, and I was just lucky to bring it down.”

It was an impressive game for Burke, who didn’t play football his sophomore year due to injury and then didn’t get a lot of playing time last year.

Burke said he learned a lot from the players in front of him last year. It’s showed this season as Burke has three interceptions and is third on the team with 48 tackles.

Even though he’s 5-foot-10 and 155 pounds, Burke said he loves to make big hits, especially against players bigger than him.

He said making a big hit is just as good a feeling as scoring a touchdown.

“It definitely gets you pumped up,” Burke said. “You see your teammates patting you on your helmet saying that’s a nice tackle. It definitely gets you going. You can hear the stands getting a little into it when you do that.”

The Hawks will play at top-seeded Hopewell at 7 p.m. Friday in the second round of the Group 3A playoffs.

Burke said one of the things he’s most proud about with this team is that they never give up.

“The theme of our team so far is just not giving up,” Burke said. “I really respect that about everyone of our players. We keep fighting no matter what.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com